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Effective Symbolism In The Lord Of The Flies Book And Film English Literature Essay

1631 words (7 pages) Essay in English Literature

5/12/16 English Literature Reference this

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It can be concluded that that both movies represent drastically different creative adaptations, though they are based on the same novel. This could well be the result of the cultural filter of the two directors that clearly had an impact on their film direction. It may also be noted that the movies are filmed in two different eras and this is evident in the film quality and style. While both movies portray the storyline from the original manuscript, the adaptation by Peter Brook more clearly defines the symbolism from the novel.

Lord of the Flies was first published in 1954 by the English Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding. The novel is about a group of British schoolboys who are deserted on an unknown island after their plane after being ??????????? during an act of war. The boys try to establish some normalcy of life and organise themselves, under horrific circumstances. The book is known for its amazing use of symbols in an almost juvenile setting.

A movie adaptation was created by Peter Brook in 1963. The movie is ninety-two minutes long and was shot in black and white with a cast of British boys. Twenty-seven years later an American director named Harry Hook also created a movie based on Lord of The flies. This time the film was done in full color and shot with an American cast.

One can question just how effective these movies portray the initial ideas of William Golding? This essay contrast explores this question further, and also questions how effectively the symbols are portrayed in both movie adaptation of Lord of The Flies.

William Gerald Golding was born on September 19, 1911 in Cornwall England.  His father was a schoolmaster and his mother was a suffragette.  His parents had wanted him to study science, and he did so from grammar school until the second year of college.  After his second year of college, he abandoned the study of science in favour of English literature.  He wrote poetry and worked in amateur theatre for a while before becoming a teacher which he was at the beginning of World War II.  At this time, he entered the Royal Navy and served with distinction on mine sweepers, destroyers, and rocket launchers.  He believed that the horrors of World War II could be based on some innate evil which he explores in his novel, Lord of the Flies.  After the war, he returned to teaching and writing, although he had little success getting published.  He was able to get Lord of the Flies published and it experienced great success.

The Lord of the Flies takes place on an island during World War II.  This is significant since the isolation causes a sort of civilization and community to form, a sort of microcosm of the real world.  At the same time, the island lacks a society and the societal laws and rules allowing the boys stranded there to run wild and show their true, ugly, inner selves.  Since the island is a microcosm, Golding uses it to reflect our world and give comments on our world and his views on human nature.  In this book, the setting is used less to create a mood than to put the characters in a particular situation. Yet they do not turn into monsters immediately, this happens gradually. The best demonstration given by Golding is Jack’s progression to the killing of the sow. Upon first landing on the island Jack, Ralph, and Simon go to survey their new home. Along the way the boys have their first encounter with the island’s pigs. They see a piglet caught in some of the plants. Quickly Jack draws his knife so as to kill the piglet. Instead of completing the act, however, Jack hesitates. Golding states that, “The pause was only long enough for them to realize the enormity of what the downward stroke would be” (Golding page #). Golding is suggesting that the societal taboos placed on killing are still ingrained within Jack.

Golding wrote the novel in the third person perspective.  There is one omniscient narrator.  Although the book generally follows Ralph, it occasionally breaks off and follows another character for a time.  This entire book is autobiographical in that it tells us something the author wants to show us.  Golding tries to teach us and warn us of the evil nature of mankind.  He says throughout the book that we are evil and that it is only society that keeps us from committing crimes.

Golding uses a lot of symbolism in The Lord of the Flies.  The entire book is symbolic of the nature of man and society in general as the island becomes a society metaphorical to society as a whole and the hunt at the end of the book symbolic of the war.  A symbol Golding uses throughout the book is the conch.  It represents authority and order.  The person holding the conch had the power, and it created order and rules since when it was called, everyone had to listen.  Another symbol is Piggy’s glasses.  They symbolized knowledge and insight.  While Piggy had them, he was able to give advice to the group, such as that of the signal fire.  It was Piggy’s glasses that created the fire.  However, after the glasses are broken, the group loses what insight they had.  The war paint is also a symbol.  It symbolized the rejection of society.  In a way, when they put on the mask of war paint, they took off the mask of society and revealed their true inner selves which was savage.

Golding’s tone is that of a lecturer. Golding writes in a simple neutral style.  His language is not complicated or flowery.  At the same time, it is not too informal.   Throughout his book he tries to teach us and warn us about our own evil.  This tone is carried during the novel.  The tone is maintained more through the events and the characters in the story than by syntax or writing style.  An example is the discovery of the parachutist.  The writing style in this part remained just as neutral as the rest of the book, but the event of finding the parachutist as the beast teaches us that it is not some mystical monster we have to be worried about but ourselves. 

The book, Lord of the Flies, contains many meaningful symbols which add depth to the storyline. The story begins with one of the most important symbols of the entire book, the conch shell. The conch is found by Ralph and Piggy and is used for assembling all the young boys on the island. The conch serves as a calling mechanism in which the boys can be summoned. The conch symbolizes order and civilization throughout the novel. The meetings that are held after the boys are summoned by the conch are efficiently controlled because of the conch. This is because the person who holds the conch is the only one permitted to speak. The conch does not only serve as a strong symbol but also an object which gives political power. Yet it is evident that as the civilization on the island begins to fade away and the boys become savages the conch loses its power. A large rock is rolled onto Piggy by Roger and in doing so crushes the conch. This symbolizes the complete loss of the civilization among almost all the boys who are left on the island. Another important symbol portrayed in the novel is Piggy’s glasses. His glasses stand for the mastery of science and intellectually. This is clear from the beginning of the story as the boys use the magnification power of the lenses in Piggy’s glasses to generate fire.

Proceeding onwards from the creation of fire, the signal fire that the boys created burns on top of the mountain and is meant to catch the eye of passing ships or aircraft who could save them. The signal fire becomes a connection to civilization because it is the only way they will ever be rescued. When the boys stop looking after the fire and let it burn out, they have unknowingly accepted their new lives as savages. Ironically, at the end of the story a fire does successfully catch the attention of a ship which then heads to the island. The fire which eventually rescued the boys , was not originally meant to be a rescue mechanism, but a wild fire used to try to smoke out Ralph from the forest because they are hunting him.

When the boys, who are all unknown to each other, besides the choirboys who do know each other, are summoned by the conch, the boys begin to speak lines of text which are very close to those written in the book. Also the agreements which are made about the conch are clearly stated and the shell very clearly symbolizes power and leadership.

In the book, as well as the movie, Simon symbolizes the goodness and gentleness found within people. In the book his character is a dark coloured boy whilst in the movie he is a fair-haired boy. A fair boy could make the symbol less effective because he would not stand out as much physically compared to the other boys on the island.

Another symbol, the fire, is clearly portrayed, along with the symbolism of the connection between civilization and the boys, since it is the only way in which they could ever contact the outside world. As the fire is neglected, the boys become more and more savage and the connection with civilization begins to fade.

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